Heritage Trails through Dolenjska and Bela krajina


The settlement of Šentrupert developed in the centre of the Mirna Valley, adjacent to the road connecting Trebnje and Sevnica. It derives it's name from the patron St. Rupert, the first bishop of Salzburg. This name, however, did not become current until the 14th century. Before that it was named after Škrljevo Castle, the administrative centre of an extensive feudal estate in the High Middle Ages. In 1044 the castle's owner, Hema, Countess of Carinthia, who later became known as St. Emma, donated the estate to her ecclesiastical foundation, the monastery of Benedictines in Gurk in Carinthia. It became the Diocese of Gurk in subordination to the Archdiocese of Salzburg in 1072. It was these circumstances that led to the first church being constructed in the vicinity of the castle. The church soon developed into one of the most important proto-parish in Dolenjska.


HISTORICAL OUTLINE. The church of Sv. Rupert is first mentioned in the archives in 1163 when Ulrich II., Patriarch of Aquileia, held a chapter consultation. With the permission of the Pope, the Patriarch of Aquileia, Johannes, gave the patronage of the parish to Herman II. Count of Celje, one of the most important patrons in the Slovenian history, on 28th Dec. 1393. The ambitions of the Counts of Celje were, however, of short duration. After the last of their members had died in 1456, all their estates and rights were inherited by a member of the Habsburg family, Emperor Frederick III. On the incentive of Jakob Auersperger (1474-1499), parish priest at the time, Frederick III. incorporated the parish into the Collegiate Chapter of Novo mesto in 1493, at the same time making Jakob the first provost of Novo mesto. This deed formally diminished the importance of the parish, but, on the other hand the newly appointed provost almost as a rule came from the post of the Šentrupert parish priest in the succeeding centuries.

ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY. The present-day church is a result of at least three phases of construction occurring during the 15th century. The first and most important phase comprised the construction of the presbytery, the ground floor and the first floor of the belfry, the stair turret on the north and the east nave wall with its buttress on the south side. The belfry used to be considered of a later date than the presbytery. Due to its dimensions it was also thought to have originally had a defensive function. The architectural elements, however, do not confirm these suppositions. The phase is dated to the first quarter of the 15th century on the basis of mason's marks and the Counts of Celje's coat of arms on the top of the vault. The coat of arms includes also the Ortenburg family heraldic bearings with three wings, which the Counts of Celje inherited when the Ortenburg family died out in 1418.

After the completion of the presbytery they probably proceeded with the completion of the belfry and the nave. The construction of the latter had already begun but, in the end, the existing nave from the Romanesque period was retained. Despite the favourable position of the Church, work did not continue until after the mid 15th century. The clues that indirectly speak of the building activities are the Gothic church bell, bearing the date of 1474, and a document on the consecration of the high altar and the granting of indulgences in 1482. The date above the portal tells us that the nave only gained its current form in 1497, when the vaulting and the portal were completed. Contemporaneously with the construction of the vaulting the church was decorated by the so-called Master of Podpeč (Podpeč pod Skalo near Gabrovka). His frescoes adorned mostly the presbytery and the vaults. They are preserved only in the latter, which is currently covered by the painting by Matija Koželj, executed in 1897. The late Gothic style painting was ordered by the Šentrupert vicar at the time, Fabijan Paroll (1495-1507), also notary public in Novo mesto and member of the Novo mesto Chapter.

DESCRIPTION OF THE CHURCH. The ground plan reveals a church with a longitudinal nave and a long presbytery or choir. The latter is externally surrounded by six double stepped buttresses with diagonally truncated upper parts and decorated with blind trefoils and pinnacles. The walls of the choir are perforated by five tall windows whose upper parts are filled with tracery in the form of triskele as well as trefoils and quatrefoils. The windows in the sacristy, situated in the lower part of the belfry, are profiled. Above the sacristy the belfry transforms from a rectangular into an octagonal tower in the upper part and represents one of the oldest belfries of this type in Dolenjska. The interior of the presbytery is vaulted with three hip caps of a star-rhomb-vault. The ribs rest on geometric corbels. On the final sides, on the other hand, they rest on semicircular shafts, two of which bear figural capitals. All the rib junctions are decorated with bosses. Only those in the form of rosettes and heraldic bosses are preserved, the latter bearing the coats of arms of the Auersperg (Turjak) and the Schönberg (Šumberk) Lords, as well as the Marian monogram. The quadripartite star-vaulting in the sacristy bears no bosses, resting rather on figural corbels. These probably represent the angel with Mary at the Annunciation and an angel playing music. The preserved sculpture comprises two stalls in the south side of the choir termination, badly damaged by fire, and a figural capital, which was subsequently immured into the arch. The scope of the construction reveals that the church was ambitiously planned at the beginning of the 15th century as a completely vaulted (probably double nave) volume, of which only the belfry, the long choir with external buttresses, and the east nave wall were completed. The work was conducted by the successors of Peter Parler from Prague. They created a number of important monuments in Slovenia around 1400 (Ptujska gora, Hajdina, Maribor, Celje), which were of the highest quality in Europe at the time.

The most prominent feature of the nave architecture is its star rib pattern. The ribs on the walls rest on figural corbels in the form of angels and male figures. However, in the middle they grow from three pairs of octagonal pillars that divide the space into three equal aisles. The ribs grow from the pillars without intermission. They introduce the foliaged phase of late Gothic architecture, which is complemented by painted foliage decoration on the vault panels. All the rib junctions are consistently decorated with bosses in the form of figures of saints, rosettes, and heraldic bosses. The bosses, however, do not exhibit a specific iconographic programme. Most of the saints are those most popular at the time (St. Mary and others). The church was finished in 1497 and was solemnly consecrated by Daniel de Rubeis, Bishop of Caorli, in 1520. It was a modernized version of a longitudinal volume originating from an older concept. Despite this it is considered a hall church, which was the most advanced church form in Carniola at the time.

In the last two centuries the church has seen several renovations. The high altar was made by the mason Ignac Toman from Ljubljana in the Neo-Gothic style in 1865, the sculptures adorning it were made by the sculptor Matej Tomc and the brass reliefs by the girdler Valentin Sadnikar. On altar there are the statues of St. Rupert, St. Peter and St. Andrew, while the reliefs on the mensa depict the Offering of Abraham, Melchizedek and Noah. The altar was consecrated on September 30th, 1866. The statue of St. Rupert in the main niche was occasionally covered by the painting of St. Rupert made by the painter Janez Wolf from Ljubljana. At present it hangs on the north wall of the presbytery. Left of the high altar is a Neo-Gothic ambry, erected during the renovation between the years 1857 and 1860. The statues of St. Nicholas and St. Ulrich under the baldachin in the north wall of the presbytery were made in 1860. Both side altars were constructed in the same year. Only the tombstone of Maximilian Valerius, Count Barbo-Wachenstein, in the north nave wall is of a later date, namely 1697.

THE CEMETERY CHAPEL OF THE HOLY CROSS. The cemetery of Šentrupert extended around the parish church until 1785, but later developed to the east of the settlement. Within the cemetery walls stands the chapel of The Holy Cross. It was built in 1859 as a vault for the Barbo family of the Venetian nobility. The building is composed of a vaulted tomb and a single liturgical space with a short polygonal presbytery, a nave, and a belfry. The chapel was hit by lightning in 1870, therefore it quickly needed renovating. In 1872 its interior was painted by Martin Šubic from Škofja Loka, depicting suffering souls in purgatory beseeching Our Lady for help, Christ on Judgement Day, and the Crucifixion. The paintings explore distinct eschatological themes, meant to incite the spectator to contemplate the final matters, death and the after life, themes that in fact bear relation to the function of the chapel.

The chapel of the Holy Cross is an interesting example of Neo-Gothic architecture. The marked ornateness achieved by wreaths, friezes, and various plant motifs is particularly noteworthy. Interestingly, the Barbo family, who commissioned the building, was clearly well informed of the modern forms in church architecture of the time. Like Barbo family, the executant probably also came from Italy, namely the mason's workshop of Giovanni B. Pascoli.

WAYSIDE SHRINES. The oldest wayside shrine in Šentrupert stands along the road between Vesela Gora and Šentrupert, on the Šentruperško polje, so colled Rakovško znamenje, erected in the 18th century. The second wayside shrine is the Chapel on the Prelesje Field (Preleško polje) east of Prelesje. It is noted for the statue of Mary of the Assumption, solemnly place in the chapel in 1878. The statue originally stood in the parish church, in the high altar erected in 1752 and was removed in 1865. The statue of St. Rupert is of the same origin and now stands in the Neo-Gothic Rupert Chapel in Šentrupert, which was erected on the order of the parish priest Alojzij Košir in 1870 on the site between the parish church and the cemetery.

ŠKRLJEVO CASTLE. Škrljevo Castle is located on the side of the Ravnik Hill, in the immediate vicinity of Šentrupert. The first documents with its name date to 1044, when St. Emma donated the castle and its estate to the Benedictines monastery at Gurk in Carinthia. With the founding of the diocese of Gurk in 1072, the estate came into the possession of the Counts of Gurk, who enfeoffed it. The estate was obtained by the Auersperg seigneury in the 15th century. The castle passed through the hands of numerous different lords from the 16th century up to the end of World War II. Nowadays the dilapidated castle is owned by Commune.

The castle is in a ruinous condition and it has not been subjected to research and the highly necessary renovation. For that reason, the development of its architecture is not known in detail. The castle developed from an earlier, medieval tower, still preserved in the foundations. Corner towers and entrance tower with a drawbridge over a moat were added in the time of Osterman Auersperg in the second half of the 15th century. Later, in the 17th and 18th centuries, modernization took place to serve residential needs and included mostly the window openings, the staircase and the majority of the rooms. Among the latter is also the castle chapel, in connection to which its chaplain is mentioned in 1734. Following numerous alterations, the castle's most marked features nowadays are the entrance tower with the main entrance, two defensive towers and the northern part of the building, which bears a Medieval tower preserved in its foundations. The interior of the castle is relatively unpretentious. Through the entrance hall a simple staircase leads to the first floor, where hardly a representative room can be found. The location of the castle chapel is also not precisely known. The castle's unpretentious character is even more pronounced on its exterior. The Baroque overlay effectively covered the Medieval features of the castle, therefore the building is at present perceived more as a Baroque mansion with a park design surrounding it, which can partly still be discerned.

VISITS: Visitors can wiew the church and chapel interiors by prior arrangement with the Šentrupert Parish Office (Župnijski urad), phone no.: (00386) 07 304 00 38. Visits of Škrljevo castle are possible only by arrangement with the local authority (Krajevna skupnost Šentrupert), phone no.: (00386) 07 343 46 00 or 07 343 46 01.

Novi trg 6, p.p. 11, 8000 Novo mesto
tel.: 07 3372 440, fax: 07 3939 322
e-mail: heritage.trail@siol.net, http://www.slovenia-heritage.net